By Edith Ike-Eboh
Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) owners around the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) have expressed optimism that the rehabilitation of the refineries will enhance their businesses.
Some of them who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Eleme urged government to ensure it does the needful to sustain peace in the communities within the project period.
NAN reports that the rehabilitation of the PHRC started on May 6, with a stakeholders’ meeting to know the project’s alignment and scope at the refinery premises in Eleme, Rivers State.
The Port Harcourt Refining Company operates two refineries: the old refinery with a nameplate capacity of 60,000 barrels per stream day (bpsd) and new refinery with an installed capacity of 150,000 bpsd.
The two refineries bring the Port Harcourt Refinery’s combined crude processing capacity to 210,000bpsd.
Mrs Florence Daka, a petty trader in front of the refinery said “If they start the rehabilitation, our business will improve and we will help our children.
“Business has been slow all these years because this place was shut down, I have been in this place for over 10 years and I am hopeful that one day it will open again.
“My Daughter is in the university, we are praying that she finishes and starts to work at the refinery now since it will start working again,“ she said.
Daka further called on the host community to maintain peace and not destroy government’s effort in rehabilitating the refinery.
“It is peace we need to get the refinery working, we need peace in Eleme, Okrika communities and everywhere,’’ she said.
Mr Bello Talfiq, a driver, said that the rehabilitation would equally boost his business saying “if they are starting work here, I will like it because I will benefit from it.
“At least, if this place is working well, small benefits will come to my business. I thank government if it desires to rehabilitate this refinery. I am so happy with it.
“I will tell community people not to make trouble with the people doing the project, they should cool down and let everything come because they will benefit from it,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, Grace Erasmus, a boutique owner also in front of the refinery, said that for peace to be sustained during the project period, government must try and employ indigenes.
“If government can do the right thing and give the indigenes work, it will be better, we need peace so that we can benefit from the project.
“I want the host communities to be peaceful so that everyone will benefit. We need good roads and light, the rehabilitation will also boost my business.
Also, Miss Goodness Ekpe, a food vendor, with her two employees, corroborated Erasmus’ idea and noted that the project would grow their business and they would also employ more people.
“I have been doing my business for 5 years; I know that if they start work here, it will bring more customers.
“The rehabilitation makes me feel so happy. I will employ more workers.
“Government should do well to help the young ones coming up, to employ them.
“That will make them happy and also make the communities to be united and it will bring peace.
Also, Moses Abraham, a Sub-contractor to NNPC, said that the problem in Niger Delta was unemployment and that had led to operations of gunmen, increase in militancy among others.
“If this project will provide opportunity for employment there will be less violence in the Niger Delta, specifically in Eleme, Okrika and Rivers State environs.
“I believe that by the time they commence the job here, the unemployment will be less. So, we are happy for the project and it will arrest insecurity in this region.
“My advice to the communities is that there should be peace throughout the project period,’’ he added.
NAN reports that the twin refineries in Port Harcourt and their counterparts in Warri and Kaduna ceased production for years due to systems breakdown caused by obsolete equipment and neglect of routine Turn Around Maintenance (TAM).
As a result the country had relied on the importation of refined petroleum products to service the economy with the attendant huge costs to the federal government and local consumers. (NAN)